Tuesday, March 31, 2009

So when do I get my ice cream?

Minimalism is for lazy "artists"

Who really don't
Want to make a
Want their names on
something that will bring

(ice cream and money are good, too)

So the minimalist


a Sculpture
a Painting
a Poem (in a senior anthology)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Getting rid of things

Last August I worked from home a lot and got disgusted by the amount of stuff I had in my room that I didn't want.
I threw away:
  • My wisdom teeth
  • An empty bottle that had held sugar cane liquor from Kenya
  • Old recipts
I had saved my wisdom teeth from when they'd been extracted earlier that year. What was I going to do with them? Show them off to house guests?

I had had a shelf at the foot of my bed that wasn't easily accessible; I had kept the books that I didn't actually want down there, but I gave those away. I gave away some old Star Wars books; I read a lot of Star Wars books when I was in middle school, but now I find them dull. I returned to Bookthing some books that I had grabbed without even leafing through, like The Jesus People, which had an ugly mottled pink cover and was not about the Jesus People movement but was instead about how radical Roman Catholic priests are, and I guess priests are pretty radical, but that was not what I was looking for.

Ever since I'd moved into that room, I'd kept some big flat things behind my dresser, but as I cleaned up, I:
  • Nailed my cross to my door,
  • Hung my dartboard on my closet door, and
  • Taped up three posters of photographs from my big adventure.
I still had stuff I didn't need:
  • A spare computer
  • Two Airzookas
  • Two jackets
  • A pile of computer games I hadn't even tried yet (Most were ones I'd gotten from the thrift store for $1.98, but I'd paid $33 for one at a CompUSA liquidation sale and hadn't even taken off the shrink wrap.)
I still didn't know what to do with:
  • A pile of cables
  • A hacky sack
  • Two spare yo-yos
  • Some fidgety toys like a chain of keychains and a Slinky
I moved to the top closet shelf:
  • Two boxes of envelopes (I had bought the second when I was at the store and thought I was out of envelopes but was not sure but figured it would be best to go ahead and get them to save a trip)
  • A pirate hat (I don't dress up like a pirate anymore)

The impetus for this organization frenzy was getting rid of the second desk. I had had two desks in my room, and the second one was so conspicuously stifling that I couldn't notice all the other clutter in the room. Once I moved the desk to the basement, saving it for my brother, Spencer, all the little clutter was overpowering.

This happened when Todd had called our church to fasting. I was up until three in the morning on Saturday night, finishing cleaning my room. Sunday morning, Todd invited us to share thoughts about fasting and I told this story, about how I decided to get rid of things I didn't need and how getting rid of the desk helped me get rid of a lot of other things. I told about how fasting is sort of like that; when I fast, I feel like I'm doing something special, spiritually, but that just makes the parts of me that are bad more clearly bad and then I can fuss about them. After the service, Curt told me about how he wasn't sure what he would have done with extracted wisdom teeth, either.

I felt so much more restful in my room. I made a special reading corner with a butterfly chair and a rug made of carpet squares and duct tape. I had the perfect bedroom.

A couple of days later, Curt asked me to move into his house to house-sit for his family, long-term--they'd moved to Virginia rather abruptly. I moved in that Saturday.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Food and Drink in Turkey

In many of the restaurants in Turkey, the menus have a picture for each item. I suppose that the idea is that this allows people who do not speak Turkish to know what they're eating. The pictures were generally so small, though, that they weren't very informative--try looking at a page full of pictures of different types of pide and figuring out which ones are topped with meat.

Pide is called "Turkish pizza" by some, but some Turks take offense at this--they see pide as a distinct type of food. I agree with them. Pide is an oblong piece of flat bread with melted cheese and various toppings. The cheese normally used is called kaşar; I think it's a little sweeter and less salty than mozzarella and with a firmer consistency. Pide is personal-size, and is served cut into inch-wide sections; this makes it easier to eat, I think. It's not very crusty and there is no tomato sauce, so I don't think it's like pizza; the only thing in common is melted cheese on bread.

Pide and kebap shops are considered the bottom-tier of dining, analogous to American fast food, I suppose. However, the food is served on real dishes, and soup and salad are included in the meal.

I like to eat terrible instant pasta made by Knorr; this is one of my favorite post-all-nighter comfort foods. In Turkey, the only Knorr products are terrible instant soup.

Turks are very proud of their salad, which normally consists of lettuce, red cabbage, carrot, cucumber, and tomato, and is dressed with olive oil or a wedge of orange or lemon. Sometimes one big plate of salad is brought for the whole table and everyone eats together and doesn't worry about mouth germs.

The milk sold in grocery stores is not refrigerated; it's super-pasteurized.

I only had one cup of drip coffee while I was in Turkey. In Turkey, instant coffee is drunk instead; it is exclusively known as NesCafe through brand generalization. I found this magical cup of drip coffee at church; evidently, coffee is a sacrament uniting Christians globally.

I drank out of so many cups exactly identical to the one shown. They hold 200 mL. They are made of thinner plastic than a plastic Dixie bathroom cup. This is the sort of cup that would be at a water cooler. I drank out of these cups on inter-city busses and in cyber cafes. Hot drinks like NesCafe are sometimes served in them.

Sugar packets are long and skinny, as are creamer packets. NesCafe even comes in single-serving packets, sometimes with the sugar and creamer included.

The soda cans hold 330 mL, which is a little less than the 12 oz I'm used to, so they look funny to me.

Turks also have Turkish coffee, which is like espresso in that it's very dark and strong. Turks normally drink it with plenty of sugar, unless mourning. Turkish coffee is brewed in a little urn called a cezve on low heat. When done properly, it makes a foam from the proteins in the coffee. Milk is never added. The coffee is unfiltered, so one must wait for the grinds to settle before drinking. Turkish coffee is not drunk to get wired; it's more often used as a sign of hospitality. Paul and I were served it when we visited some scientists at a university.

Due to coffee shortages from World War I, Ataturk suggested that the Turks switch to drinking tea; before this, coffee was the main hot beverage in Turkey. Now, Turks are the number one per-capita consumers of tea in the world, at 2.5 kg/year; the UK is in second at 2.1 kg/year--not even close. Turkish tea is brewed in a pot on top of another pot, full of boiling water. This controls the temperature of the tea, keeping it around 170-180ºF, which, I think, releases fewer tannins. It is typically steeped for 15 minutes, three times as long as black tea is normally steeped when brewed in boiling water. It has no astringent aftertaste.

The concentrated tea brewed in the top pot is diluted with the boiling water from the bottom pot; even after dilution, Turkish tea is still stronger than the tea normally served in the States. Turkish tea is served in a small tulip-shaped glass; this makes it easier to dilute correctly and allows appreciation of the color of the tea. The tea is served in small vessels so it stays hotter while drunk; guests are given seconds and thirds and fourths...

Rakı is Turkey's national liquor, made from distilled fermented grapes and flavored with anise. (Greeks call it ouzo, and Iranians call it arak.) Rakı is drunk diluted. It is clear, but, because of magic, turns cloudy when water is added. Once, I was served rakı in a bar, and I added water, but it was already diluted, so the Turks I was with were able to tell that I'm sort of a poseur sometimes. Turks are very good sports when foreigners mess up their customs.

In Turkey, the carrots are shorter and fatter than the ones here. Celery was nowhere to be found. Bell peppers are called "American peppers"; the peppers that are popular in Turkey are more bitter than the ones I'm used to.

Mayonnaise and ketchup are popular condiments and are eaten with pizza. When I told Hassan, one of my hosts in Izmir, that Americans think eating pizza with ketchup and mayonnaise is peculiar, he said that while he doesn't eat pizza with mayonnaise, and agrees this is a little strange, "with pizza, ketchup is a necessity."

Ayran is a salt yogurt drink; it's very popular.

Tofu is almost impossible to find. I met some Koreans in Turkey who import their own freeze-dried tofu, which they say is passable if you only need soft tofu.

French fries are sometimes eaten with a fork; I get the sense that other foods that I would regard as finger foods would be eaten with a fork in Turkey.

At the McDonalds restaurants in Turkey, in addition to the menu I'm used to from the States, there is the McTürko, which is beef patties served on flatbread with a special sauce; Matthew says it's basically the same as a McArabia, but the sauce is a little sweeter.

When I told Turks about how I'm used to refrigerated milk and drip coffee, they were surprised.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Identity food

I often have my cell phone, in my pocket, set to vibrate. I miss a lot of calls that way, I don't always notice the vibration. Also, I now have phantom cell phone vibrations--my thigh will feel an oscillatory twitch, but no one has called.

Last fall, I was sick a lot, I had a cold that made me very tired and gave me a lot of headaches and a sore throat. It was the sort of sore throat that feels painful but doesn't make me sound any different. I didn't sneeze or cough or anything. I got no sympathy.

I love how liquor stores sell breath mints next to the flu shots. Why is cranberry juice the juice of choice for people who want to not drink alcohol, but be at a bar anyway?

I had had a cold all during a long trip, and I was very tired, but when I got home, the only place open was 7-Eleven. I got Gatorade and cough drops, a frozen pizza, and a Klondike bar. When I got home, I couldn't find the Klondike. Months later, when it appeared between the passenger seat and door, none of the melted ice cream had leaked out.

Why is there meat-lovers' pizza or veggie-lovers' pizza, instead of pizza-with-a-lot-of-meat, or pizza-with-a-passel-of-vegetables-that-do-not-necessarily-go-together? What other identity foods have you spotted?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Negative one souls

One time, Paul, an alumnus, came to InterVarsity's large group meeting on a Thursday night. He was wearing a day-glo orange armband, and handed out armbands to anyone who wanted one. His idea was that people would ask us about our armbands, and we could tell them that we're wearing armbands because we're so excited about Jesus that we want to tell everyone, and that the armbands give us an opportunity to do that. We called this Operation Orange Armbands. We were supposed to wear our armbands for a few weeks, 40 days, I think.

This happened when I was a student research assistant at the Army Research Lab. The scientists never asked me about the armband. I got into a lot of interesting discussions with the janitors and technicians, though, but they were mostly practicing Christians, already.

I was disappointed at how much I suck at evangelism. My armband didn't lead anyone to the Lord. Actually, by my count, I've won negative one souls.